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Kenya, Morocco begin end of fossil fuels as global wind and solar power increases

Health & Science
 Ngong Hills Wind Power Station. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Global wind and solar electricity hit 12 percent in 2022, up from 10 percent in 2021, marking the beginning of the end of fossil fuel use a new report shows.

A report released today reveals a remarkable increase that signals a growing trend toward renewable energy adoption across the world.

A fourth annual Global Electricity Review by Ember Energy report highlights that countries like Namibia (25 percent), Morocco (17 percent) and Kenya (16 percent) are leading the way by adopting these clean energy sources at an impressive pace.

The data further reveals that over 60 countries generate over ten percent of their electricity from wind and solar power.

The report forecasts that from 2023, wind and solar will usher in a new era of declining fossil fuel generation. With it, a fall in power sector emissions.

The report states that despite the challenges posed by the global gas crisis and fears of a return to coal, the growth of wind and solar generation in 2022 met an impressive 80 percent of the rise in global electricity demand.

Twenty African nations already generate more than half of their electricity from renewables, with hydro playing a key role.

However, the African region as a whole has just 5 percent of its electricity from wind and solar; second lowest only to the Middle East. Less than 1 percent of the increase in global wind and solar generation in 2022 was in African countries.

The rapid growth seen in some African countries reveals the enormous potential for wind, solar and other renewable technologies.

For example, with backing from its President, Namibia has seen solar power quadruple in just four years, from 6 percent of electricity in 2017 to 24 percent of electricity in 2021 making it the African country with the highest share of solar power.

Kenya is another exemplary country that continued to push for more clean energy despite already achieving high renewable generation from hydro (30 percent) and geothermal (45 percent) in 2017. As a result, in 2022, renewables delivered 90 percent of Kenya’s electricity.

Wind power reached 14 percent of Kenya’s electricity in 2022 up from just 0.6 percent in 2017, with the development of Africa’s largest wind project, backed by international financing.

The new developments limited coal generation increases and led to a slight drop in gas power generation. Together, all clean electricity sources, including renewables and nuclear, reached a new record high of 39 percent of global electricity.

However, the report warns that countries cannot relent as coal power still remains the single largest source of electricity worldwide, producing 36 percent of global electricity in 2022. In addition, power sector emissions hit an all-time high in 2022, increasing by 1.3 percent.

To achieve economy-wide net zero by 2050, the report recommended that the electricity sector needs to move from being the highest emitting sector to being the first sector to reach net zero by 2040.

Ember's senior electricity analyst, Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, believes that wind and solar are set to rise to the top, reshaping the global economy, from transport to industry and beyond.

She notes that a new era of declining fossil fuel emissions means coal power phasedown will happen. In addition, the end of gas power growth is now within sight.

However, she cautions that it all depends on the actions taken now by governments, businesses, and citizens to put the world on a pathway to clean power by 2040.

"The world is at a turning point, and we have the opportunity to create a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations. It's up to us all to take action and accelerate wind and solar power deployment. Let's seize this moment to make renewable energy technology a global public good and shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy. With the right policies and actions, we can create a cleaner, greener, and brighter future for all," she said.

The fourth annual Global Electricity Review from energy think tank Ember presents electricity data from 2022 across 78 countries, representing 93 percent of global electricity demand.

According to the data, solar was the fastest-growing source of electricity for 13 years in a row, rising by 24 percent year-on-year and adding enough electricity to power all of South Africa.

Wind generation increased by 17 percent in 2022, enough to power almost all of the UK. The data reveals that over sixty countries now generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind and solar.

Together all clean electricity sources (renewables and nuclear) reached 39 percent of global electricity, setting a record high.

Wind and solar generation growth in 2022 met 80 percent of global electricity demand growth.

Despite the global gas crisis and fears of a return to coal, it was that rise in wind and solar that limited coal generation (+1.1 percent). Gas power generation fell (-0.2 percent) in 2022.

Overall, power sector emissions increased by 1.3 percent in 2022, reaching an all-time high. However, the report forecasts that last year may be the ‘peak’ of electricity emissions and the final year of fossil power growth. This due to clean power meeting all demand growth this year.

As a result, fossil generation would fall (-0.3 percent) in 2023, with larger falls in subsequent years as wind and solar deployment accelerate.

According to modeling by the International Energy Agency, the electricity sector needs to move from being the highest emitting sector to being the first sector to reach net zero by 2040 in order to achieve economy-wide net zero by 2050.

This would mean wind and solar reaching 41 percent of global electricity by 2030, compared to 12 percent in 2022.

Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, said "Global progress, while encouraging, doesn't reveal the growing disparity in renewable energy adoption which is tipped disproportionately in favour of developed countries and emerging economies in Asi.

"Much more needs to be done to ensure that developing countries are not left behind and locked into high carbon futures. Furthermore, coal power remained the single largest source of electricity worldwide, producing 36 percent of global electricity in 2022. This means that the power sector remains off-track in meeting net zero targets globally by mid-century. The deployment of wind and solar needs to be massively and urgently accelerated," he said.

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